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John Carmack on what the Oculus Rift’s integrated audio can do for gaming

Audio was a focal point in Doom 3 development a decade ago.

The weekend’s Oculus Connect conference has flooded the internet with keynotes from staff at the VR company – where water cooler chat, you imagine, ends with a totally reengineered water cooler.

In one panel, CTO John Carmack talked up the good VR can do for sound in gaming – where audio is traditionally under-resourced.

“All that audio stuff that everybody always wanted to do and we never thought made the grade for traditional gaming? Now we can actually make a difference,” said Carmack.

Carmack said Oculus have a recurring argument about whether or not VR users will wear headphones. But the Oculus Rift Crescent Bay prototype will have optional integrated audio, and he’s chuffed about that.

“I’m super happy that we did decide finally on the integrated audio, because if it’s not integrated properly as a part of it, it’s not going to be an important part,” said Carmack.

“As a game developer, to the audio engineers out there, decades have gone by where they’ve always got the short end of the stick – they’ve always got the shortest time slice of the CPU, and they don’t really get to do the things that they want to do.”

But it’s not dev generosity that has Oculus building headphones into their tech. Former Valve VR figurehead Michael Abrash said that good audio would be a “force multiplier” for winning newcomers over to virtual reality.

“If audio is really good – if it’s properly spatialised and it’s properly propagated so that the space of the room you’re in feels right, you won’t even know why, but the experience will be far, far more real,” he said.

However, Carmack added that Oculus still needed to build the “perfect demo” to prove that point.

“It is sort of Oculus’ responsibility to evangelise this by making the demo that makes it so blatantly obvious to everyone that this is an important aspect,” he said.

What would that demo sound like, do you think? Wind rushing around wyrm scales? Alien ooze dripping from air vents?